By Ben Heskett
The Santa Cruz Mountains continue to offer tantalizing possibilities in terms of vineyard placement and resulting wines. This is what drew Bradley Brown, the winemaker and proprietor at Big Basin Vineyards, to the area, and the results are big, bold, and full of the character of the region.
Though the tasting room is right in the center of Saratoga, the vineyard can be hard to find, tucked at the end of an inauspicious road. For CORKZILLA, it has been some time since we were first turned on to Big Basin at last year’s Hospice du Rhone event in Paso Robles, Calif. A subsequent visit to both Brown’s sloping vineyard property in Boulder Creek, Calif. (Pictured below) and the tasting room in Saratoga, Calif., only confirmed the reasons for our original interest in the Big Basin portfolio of wines.
Brown grows mostly Syrah on his own Boulder Creek property, which he purchased in 1998. The positioning of the vineyard is no random act – It sits in a sort of “banana belt” that provides plenty of sun as well as fog inter-mingling from three different coastal directions, according to Brown. Brown also contracts for fruit with farmers in other regions who share his approach – low grape yields and organically oriented. His total output is around 2,000 – 2,500 cases annually.
It’s taken some time to fire up the keyboard, but a recent tasting at the Rhone Rangers San Francisco grand tasting event was the necessary reminder that Zilla’s readers need to know about this winery. We’re not alone – Brown has racked up some great scores from the usual wine industry suspects, and Big Basin was a popular table at the Rhone Rangers. Big Basin will also be pouring wines at this weekend’s 20th annual Hospice du Rhone.
A few thoughts on the wines in general:
- If you like big Syrahs full of dark fruit, you need to try one of several in the Big Basin portfolio. They’re obviously all unique in their own right, but seem to share a certain boldness of flavors.
- The Big Basin Grenache – called the “Grizzly” – is also worth a try. The soon-to-be-released inaugural 2008 vintage has a nice blend of Syrah, but you’ll need to be quick, since production is 34 cases.
- I’ll also note a wine that I had not previously thought of as a standout but was impressive when recently tasted at Fort Mason – The Homestead Red Blend from the Santa Cruz Mountains, a combination of 46 percent Grenache, 43 percent Syrah, and 11 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Great fruit and a long finish.
This is a winery to watch for sure.